Today the Kansas Legislature returns to Topeka for a session that must deal with the difficult realities of the Kansas budget. Constituencies that depend of government spending have been making their cases for their programs to be spared cuts. The public school lobby is perhaps the most vocal.
This group’s recent email to its members contains an impassioned plea for legislators to avoid the “deep cuts” the House Appropriations Committee recommends. This committee recommend cuts of $100 million. While that sounds like a lot, it amounts to $117 per student, putting Kansas base state aid per pupil at $4,250.
That’s a cut of about 2.7%. But that considers only state funding, and only base funding at that. When you look at a cut of $117 per student in the context of the $13,000 spent annually per student by the Wichita school district, it’s a cut of less than 1%.
Wichita interim Superintendent Martin Libhart, in Wichita Eagle reporting said that the cuts to USD 259, the Wichita public school district, would be $4.8 million to $8.7 million, depending on whether the House or Senate’s version of cuts wins. This represents a cut of from 0.8% to 1.4%, based on total Wichita spending.
School spending advocates don’t use total school spending in these calculations, however. They want to use just the state-funded spending, so that the cuts look proportionally larger.
As we’ve seen, these school spending advocates either don’t know how much schools spend, or they’re embarrassed to admit how much is spent.
Here’s some talking points Cook’s organization is asking people to use:
“Schools are our largest employers in many communities. A cut in funding will result in teacher layoffs.” It’s a problem that government schools are so large. We’d be better off with a more diverse blend of private, parochial, home schooling, and charter schools. As to teacher layoffs, there are a multitude of ways schools can cut their spending without laying off teachers.
“Our economy can’t recover without a well educated workforce.” Perhaps true, but relying on our public schools to produce this well-educated workforce is a mistake, at least according to recent remarks by President Obama.
“Our schools have used their money to increase student achievement, don’t put this roadblock up.” Whether student achievement is increasing is an open question. See Kansas school test scores: can they be reconciled with national tests? for a question I’ve put to the Kansas State Department of Education.
“Please don’t play politics with our children. They deserve better.” Public schools in Kansas fund themselves through government rather than voluntary market transactions. School funding, therefore, is a political matter.